I recently had a brief conversation with a friend in the gym whose friend has recently had a baby. She was wondering about eating while breastfeeding and discussing how hard it is to eat correctly. I was also at a trade-show recently in Kildare and the same issue came up from an expecting mum and from an expecting granny who really saw a market for healthy meals for women who had just had a baby. I decided to write a brief blog on the issue and try to get some feedback from expectant mums or new mums about what their situation is like at the moment.
Believe it or not but not much changes after the baby comes. Before I get hit by every woman on the plant, that sentence sounds hilarious, because EVERYTHING changes once baby arrives! Nutrition-wise though, you can continue eating very similar to how you ate when you were pregnant or even before pregnancy, if you paid close attention to your eating choices. In fact, it is probably the only bit of your life that doesn’t need to change!
Your body requires extra calories, about 500 per day, to produce breast-milk. This increased energy requirement is about the same as what your body needed at the end of your pregnancy. You will probably see some weight loss if you go back to your pre-pregnancy eating portions, which would cause your body to come up with those extra 500 calories.
But you have to be careful here—if you try to eat less food in an attempt to lose weight, your milk supply will suffer.
Make sure you know your basics.
A nursing mom has special nutrition needs, but just like during pregnancy, the foundation of nutrition should always be the healthy eating habits. Every woman, regardless of situation, should eat according to these principles:
- Eat frequently and purposefully
- Eat protein with every meal
- Eat vegetables, with every meal
- Eat healthy fats throughout the day
- Eat starchy carbs, like whole grains, based on your goals and body type
- Avoid processed and packaged food, always choosing whole, real food
- Avoid beverages with calories, choosing water above anything else
Breastfeeding specifics. If you are nursing, you do need to pay special attention to a couple things.
Eat enough. As I mentioned before, if you limit your food intake by eating less meals or too small of portions, your milk production will suffer. I recommend eating 5 or 6 small meals per day, always following the healthy eating habits listed above. Particularly eat protein rich foods. To learn more about the importance of protein read here.
Eat fats. As with pregnancy nutrition, healthy fats are very important when you’re breastfeeding. Your baby really needs these for multiple levels of development. Be sure to take an omega-3 fish oil supplement, looking for one that is high in EPA and DHA and does not come from the liver of the fish. Take about 4,000-6,000mg daily. Also, eat nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, canola oil, and avocados. You can also eat some saturated fats, found in dairy, meat and tropical oils like palm and coconut oil. Just don’t eat these saturated fats as much as the other fats. You can learn more about fat here.
Vitamins and minerals. If you eat according to the healthy eating habits then you will most likely get all the nutrients you need, but you should continue taking your prenatal vitamin or a regular multivitamin. Calcium and Vitamin D are both particularly important when you’re breastfeeding. You won’t be able to provide all of the vitamin D your baby needs, but you can provide quite a bit. Good sources of calcium and vitamin D are egg yolks, fish, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, broccoli and dairy foods. Eat eggs for breakfast and have a big, green salad daily to help get these nutrients.
Drink enough water. Yes, you are a milk factory and you will feel like a cow most days. Your body is producing lots of extra fluid so you need to stay extremely hydrated by consuming about double the water you normally would. Don’t worry about measuring the amount you drink, just pay attention to the colour of your urine, which should be pale yellow. Also, drink before you get thirsty and make sure you have water with you when you’re nursing.
Adult beverages. You can now drink alcohol and caffeine, but be very careful. Your baby will get this stuff in her milk, too. Caffeine can make a baby extremely fussy and have difficulty sleeping (duh!). Most experts agree that about 300mg of caffeine total per day is ok, about three cups of coffee.
Foods to avoid? Some will suggest to stay away from particularly spicy or gas-producing foods, like broccoli, onions and cabbage, as these foods might make your baby fussy. There is no scientific evidence to support this fact but like adults, kids will react differently to different foods so pay attention to how your baby reacts after certain foods.
It’s important that nursing moms eat well, just don’t get trapped into focusing too much on very specific do’s and don’ts. Simply follow the healthy eating habits outlined above, prioritising protein and a variety of produce and healthy fats; make sure you eat frequently to get enough nutrients to support a good milk supply; and drink lots of water.
When you eat healthfully and mindfully, your baby weight will gradually come off and you will be set up to dial it in even more after you’re done breastfeeding.
This is where Life Kitchen come in! We make really healthy meals and deliver them straight to your door. All our meals contain a minimum of 30g of quality protein, 3 of your 5 a day in terms of fruit and vegetables and have healthy fats. We also don’t use salt or sugar in any of our meals.
By having meals ready to go in the fridge or freezer it can be a real help to new mothers to eat healthily. Another advantage is that because our meals are made with high quality ingredients and are not full of empty calories they will help the new mother lose weight if that is what you want. And with all these advantages they are delivered to the door no matter where you are in Ireland! So you can stay in your pj’s and the food comes to you!
For the summer months we have a special offer of 20% off any of our plans. Enter the code summer20 in our online shop or mention it on the phone if you want to order that way.